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Apple Stores start selling Retina iPad mini to walk-in customers as regional carriers launch cellular models

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Regional carriers are starting to announce availability for cellular models of Apple’s new Retina iPad mini just as the company today started offering the device to walk-in customers.

Bluegrass Cellular announced today that it is now offering the iPad mini Wi-Fi Cellular models in-store and online. Available on the carrier’s website now starting at the usual $530 for the 16GB model, the carrier is also offering all three models (16GB, 32GB, and 64GB) on its no-contract “Freedom, Expanded” plan. That allows customers to make 12 monthly payments to get the device they want with the ability to trade-in and upgrade to a new device after a year. That plan will run $26.50/month for the 16GB model on Bluegrass, $31.50/month for the $630 32GB model, or $36.50/month for the $730 64GB model. The carrier appears to only have Space Gray models of the device available, at least online, and the Freedom Expanded plans are only available in-store. Another regional carrier, C Spire Wireless, will begin selling the Retina iPad mini over the next week. UpdateU.S. Cellular has also begun cellular iPad mini with Retina Display sales today on its website.

In other Retina iPad mini news, we’ve just received word Apple has just started selling the device to walk-in customers in its retail stores following an initial launch for Personal Pickup orders only.

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Regional carriers supporting new cellphone unlocking bills in hopes of attracting iPhone customers

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Earlier this month we told you that lawmakers were working on introducing new legislation to legalize cellphone unlocking following a statement from the White House confirming that it would support “narrow legislative fixes.” The new laws would attempt to reverse a decision was made by the Library of Congress in October to make the act illegal that resulted in a petition from consumers and prompted a response from the White House. We already knew that most of the big carriers including Verizon and AT&T are not in support of unlocking, but today Bloomberg reports smaller, rural carriers are backing new bills in hopes it will attract new iPhone customers:

“Smaller carriers have a very difficult time getting access to smartphones and handsets,” said Steven Berry, president of the Competitive Carriers Association, which represents such companies as U.S. Cellular Corp. (USM) and Bluegrass Cellular. “The unlocking is one way the consumer can make the decision that I can try someone else who has better coverage in the area where I live or play.”

While the Senate bills are “excellent first steps,” Congress needs to go further, Carri Bennet, general counsel for Rural Telecommunications Group, a Washington association representing rural carriers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers, said in an e-mail.

Many of these smaller regional carriers, including Bluegrass Cellular, typically offer the latest iPhone for a price lower than Apple and the major carriers in order to attract customers. Bloomberg also reports that a number of lawmakers have committed to introducing or supporting bills to legalize unlocking phones:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, and Charles Grassley of Iowa, the panel’s top Republican, introduced a bill March 11 to overturn the Library of Congress’s decision and direct the agency to consider adding tablet computers to devices that consumers can unlock.

Democratic Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have also introduced bills to unlock mobile phones. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, and John Conyers of Michigan, the panel’s top Democrat, have also announced plans to sponsor such legislation.

ChronicUnlocks.com has been a solid provider of iPhone unlocks for our readers and us for a while now if you are looking for a good place to unlock an iPhone

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Regional carrier Bluegrass Cellular to offer iPhone 5 for $149 starting Nov. 2, iPhone 4S for $49

Kentucky-based regional carrier Bluegrass Cellular originally had plans to offer the iPhone 5 at the end of September following its launch, but today announced it will finally have the device to offer its customers starting Friday, November 2nd. Like it and other regional carriers have done in the past with the latest iPhone models, it will offer the entry-level iPhone 5 for $50 less than you’ll find it through most others. You’ll of course need one of the carrier’s 3G plans starting at $64.99/month and a two-year commitment to take advantage. Bluegrass will also have the 32GB iPhone 5 for $249, and the 64GB model for $349.

As for the iPhone 4S, the carrier’s customers can now pick it up starting at just $49, while iPhone 4 is still be offered on contract for $0.99. Details on Bluegrass Cellular’s iPhone plans below:

Bluegrass Cellular to Offer iPhone 5 on November 2

Elizabethtown, KY—October 30, 2012—Bluegrass Cellular announced it will offer iPhone 5 beginning Friday, November 2. iPhone 5 will be available starting at $149 for the 16GB model, $249 for the 32GB model and $349 for the 64GB model in all Bluegrass Cellular Customer Care Centers, select Authorized Agent locations and online at www.bluegrasscellular.com/iphone. In addition, iPhone 4S will be available starting at $49 and iPhone 4 will be available starting at $0.99. Bluegrass will allow iPhone 5 customers to connect to its fast 3G network.

iPhone 5 is the thinnest and lightest iPhone ever, completely redesigned to feature a stunning new 4-inch Retina display; an Apple-designed A6 chip for blazing fast performance; and ultrafast wireless technology—all while delivering even better battery life.* iPhone 5 comes with iOS 6, the world’s most advanced mobile operating system with over 200 new features including: Shared Photo Streams, Facebook integration, all-new Maps app, Passbook organization and even more Siri features and languages.

“We are pleased to offer iPhone 5 to our customers throughout the Bluegrass Cellular service area nationwide,” said Ron Smith, President and CEO, Bluegrass Cellular. “Our customers are excited to experience this new device’s unique features and applications on our exceptional network, wherever they go.”